Mapungubwe is an ancient archeological marvel, and stunning rock formation where the borders of Botswana, South Africa and Zimbabwe meet. It has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is of immense importance to African identity and history.
On our upcoming African Safari yoga retreat we are embarking on an excursion to visit Mapungubwe. We will be crossing over the mighty Limpopo River from our Botswana home for a week, Tuli Private Game Reserve, to engage in a startlingly profound and enriching cultural experience.
It is likely, if you are reading this from a country outside of Africa, that you have never heard of Mapungubwe. The relatively scant publicity of Mapungubwe outside of Africa is telling because this was a cradle for tribal kingdoms and African social progress long before Europeans set foot on the continent. It is commonly considered by westerners that African history only begins with the infiltration of European expansionism. In actual fact, African society and tribal economies were advanced, complex and progressively transforming long before European contact. Mapungubwe is unequivocal evidence of this.
This ancient location we will be visiting as part of our immersive, enriching, and unique retreat programme, has hosted several civilisations from 900 AD to the beginning of 1300 AD. Mapungubwe is considered by archeologists today to have been the first place in Africa to show class distinction (between royals and commoners), and it is the first place to separate a leader on the hill with the people scattered over the savannah below. It is also the first place to have a stone wall palace providing ritual seclusion for the sacred leader of the community.
As marvellous and fascinating as the society of the time was, it is just as interesting to contemplate how and why this settlement of roughly 5, 000 people vanished. Indeed, this World Heritage protected site is also a mystery tale. It was only discovered in the 20th century by archeologists. This means that the site remained completely untouched for thousands of years. All the burial sites, pottery, jewellery, rock formations and treasures of the wealthy trading community were abandoned and left in a purity until recent discovery.
Some speculate it could have been an earthquake that caused the society to flee, whilst others consider that the head of the royal family died. Another opinion touted is that this was one of the earliest and most profound traces of the effects of climate change on human settlement. Indeed, there is evidence from around 1300 AD, for 10 years, of a catastrophic drought in the whole of Southern Africa.
An award-winning museum has been built nearby the archeological site. This houses some of the most prized artefacts uncovered, including stunning gold beaded jewellery, poetry and a replica of the most famous discovery, a golden rhino (permanently housed at Pretoria University in South Africa’s capital city). Exotic Yoga Retreats guests will be lucky enough to have a guided tour of the site, as well as the museum. It is in opportunity to gain unprecedented insight into early Southern African society. The spiritual significance of the rock formations offer us an unforgettable encounter with the intersection between culture, history, nature and spirituality.
Does this cultural immersion on an African Safari yoga retreat appeal to you? Click here to discover more about our unique itinerary and join us this March!